If a drink is 99.9% caffeine free, then you are drinking… black coffee

There are some products whose packaging advertises that they are 99.9% caffeine free. Such a drink, for example, would be suitable to drink before going to sleep, because it would not disturb our sleep. Or if we feel jet lag. Or we simply suffer from jet lag. However, things are not what they seem.

A drink that is free of caffeine in such a percentage is, for practical purposes, the same as a caffeinated coffee.

According to the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), a US non-profit entity that monitors health, there are 415 milligrams of caffeine in a 600-milliliter cup of Starbucks coffee, which corresponds to 21 milligrams of caffeine for 30 milliliters.

If 30 milliliters of water has a mass of about 28 grams, a coffee contains about 0.075% caffeine in total. In other words, a coffee is also 99.9% caffeine-free.

In this regard, Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West analyze the data in their book, Against Quackery, which we reviewed recently, pointing out that almost all coffee brands could be labeled in this way, just as a product of the brand does. Nestlé that does the same:

Although we don’t have an exact number for this brand of cocoa, most cocoas contain about 20 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce cup, or about 0.01% caffeine by weight. So we initially thought that perhaps the 99.9% figure was referring to the cocoa powder, not the finished drink. But Nestlé’s website makes it clear that it is referring to the prepared drink, not the powder: “With rich chocolate flavor and only 20 calories per individual packet, with this cocoa you get an 8 fluid ounce serving free of 99, 9% caffeine.”

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